One of the many facets to the Case Study House program was the innovative use of materials such as steel, aluminum, stucco, glass, and veneer wood, not to mention flat roofs and sliding doors. The ongoing challenge in the maintenance and conservation of the homes is that each of the materials are aging differently and can sometimes be difficult to replace. The Getty Museum launched the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative to address these issues as conservationists don’t quite have the answers. Also, how do you keep a mid-century modern home “modern” in 2013 without disrupting the integrity of the architect’s original blueprint?
The best example of how to solve these issues lies in the late 1990’s restoration of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study #21. Filmmaker Dan Cracchiolo purchased the home in 1997 and immediately contacted Koenig to revitalize the home to its original design. Koenig admits that “finding the parts” to rehabilitate his design that cost $20,000 in the fifties – a mere $15 per square foot compared to the $300-400 per square foot it would cost to build today – was no easy feat.
Case Study #21 restored. Photo: Timothy Sakamoto 2003 from www.pacificstandardtimepresents.org
The original owners, Dr. Walter Bailey and his wife who commissioned the house in 1957, relocated to the East Coast and sold the property in 1969. The owners that followed over the next three decades made random updates that disrupted the structural harmony. Skylights were installed, wide-gout ceramic tiles replaced the original white-vinyl tiled floors, a cooking island was lodged into the kitchen- a matter of taste updates to any other house, but a total disaster to a mid-century modern masterpiece.
Case Study #21 restored. photo: Arnout Fonck 2007
Modernizing the kitchen appliances, the water heater, furnace, and lighting throughout the house had to be carefully thought out. This proved a challenge for Pierre Koenig, the architect himself! But Koenig was able to update and restore the home at the same time- a true luxury for the architect and client. The restoration “case” of Case Study #21 was one of luck since the original architect was still alive. But it also aided to clue in the new owners of the homes and conservationists that a pragmatic approach is in line with the original intent of the Case Study program.
Case Study #21 restored. Photo: Julius Shulman, Juergen Nogai 2006
Luckily, since the restoration the owners of Case Study #21 have been on board with maintaining Koenig’s integrity and honoring the legacy of the Case Study House program. The latest owners are Korean art dealers pictured below to the furthest right.